MARCH 8, 2004




In His Light

by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

The gifts of new faith and consecrated service

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

Here in these first days of Lent I have had two powerful experiences of God’s grace that I want to share with you. The first is the celebration of the Rite of Election and the other is the observance of the 75th anniversary of the Quinhon Sisters of the Holy Cross.

On the First Sunday of Lent and the Saturday before, God gave me the blessing of presiding at the Rite of Election at St. Augustine Church in Pleasanton, and St. Felicitas Church in San Leandro. (This ceremony was repeated last weekend, March 6-7, at Most Holy Rosary Church, Antioch, and St. Cornelius Church, Richmond.)

The Rite of Election, of course, has nothing to do with the citizenry who headed to the polls on March 2; it’s not that sort of “election.” The election we are referring to here is the ratification of the choice, the “election,” that God the Father has made in calling new members into His family, the Church.

The point of the Rite of Election is for the bishop, as the principal pastor of the local Church, to affirm in the name of Christ that the catechumens who have come to faith are now called – “elected” – to be baptized, confirmed and receive their first Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil.

Along with this affirmation of the choice of catechumens to become members of the Church, it has become customary in the United States at this ceremony to ratify the decision of those who are already baptized to enter into full communion with us at the Easter Vigil.

So, at the Rite of Election I am blessed to be able to meet the many folks, young and old, who seek to share fully with us in our membership in the Mystical Body of Christ.

I call my being at this Rite a “blessing” because it is profoundly encouraging to me to see how many people, from such diverse backgrounds, want to share with us in the grace of eternal life which Christ gives us through our membership in the Church.

Likewise, the Rite gives me a renewed appreciation for our faith. It’s often the case that we get a new sense of the worth of what we have when a newcomer expresses admiration, even longing, for the good thing that we have possessed for so long that we take it for granted.

As I told the Elect and the Candidates for Full Communion, one of the limits I felt myself bumping up against in presiding at the ceremony is that there is no time to hear their stories, their witness of how God has worked in their lives so that now they want the grace of belonging to Him in the Church.

But, I am sure that in eternity there will be time enough to learn all the details of the marvelous ways the all-good God has directed them.

So for now I invite you to join me in making a start at praising the Lord for the working of His grace in the lives of these soon-to-be fellow Catholics.

On Saturday, Feb. 28, I offered Mass for the Quinhon Sisters of the Holy Cross as part of their 75th anniversary celebration. While this formal name may not be familiar to some, many of you know them as the Vietnamese Sisters who, in their easily remarked white and black habits, are so familiar throughout the diocese.

Here, too, I was filled with gratitude for the marvelous ways of God’s loving Providence. When their founder, a French missionary bishop to Indo-China, began their community, I am sure that he had no idea that one day this community would be an integral part of the life of the Church in the East Bay. However, God knew, and it was to thank Him for this providential gift that we were gathered at the Sisters’ novitiate in Concord.

I invite all of you to join me in praising God for the grace that these Sisters are to our diocese. They bring to their consecrated lives the gifts that they have inherited as daughters of the Church in Viet Nam: a profound capacity for unaffected devotion to the things of God and an adamantine strength to persevere in their commitments once their loyalty has been declared.

They are the offspring of a Church that has given heroic witness to Christ, not only in generations past, but even onto our own day.

Blessed be God’s name for the decades that this community of faith-filled women has served Him, and may He be especially praised for the years the Quinhon Sisters of the Holy Cross have shared their lives with us in Oakland.


Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.